The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of adding essential oils to the diet of weaned pigs on performance, nutrient utilization, immune response and intestinal health. A total of 96 weaning pigs (8.37±1.58 kg) were allotted to one of three dietary treatments. The treatments consisted of an unsupplemented basal diet (negative control, NC) or similar diets supplemented with 0.01% of an essential oil product which contained 18% thymol and cinnamaldehyde (EOD) as well as a diet supplemented with 0.19% of an antibiotic mixture which provided 150 ppm chlortetracycline, 80 ppm colistin sulfate and 50 ppm kitasamycin (positive control, PC). Each treatment was provided to eight pens of pigs with four pigs per pen. Over the entire 35 d experiment, ADG and fecal score were improved (p<0.05) for pigs fed the PC and EOD compared with the NC. Dry matter and crude protein digestibility as well as lymphocyte proliferation for pigs fed the PC and EOD diets were increased significantly compared with NC (p<0.05). IGF-I levels in plasma were significantly increased (p<0.05) in pigs fed the PC diet compared with pigs fed the NC diet. Interleukin-6 concentration was lower (p<0.05) and the tumor necrosis factor-α level was higher (p<0.05) in the plasma of pigs fed the EOD diet than the NC diet. Plasma total antioxidant capacity level increased (p<0.05) in pigs fed the EOD diet compared with pigs fed the NC. Villus height to crypt depth ratio in the jejunum was greater (p<0.05) in pigs fed the PC and EOD diets than the NC. The numbers of E. coli in the cecum, colon and rectum were reduced (p<0.05) in pigs fed the PC and EOD diets compared with the control. In the colon, the ratio of Lactobacilli to E. coli was increased (p<0.05) in pigs fed the EOD diet compared with NC diet. Total aerobe numbers in the rectum were decreased (p<0.05) in pigs fed the PC and EOD diets compared with the control. Collectively, these results indicate that blends of essential oils could be a candidate for use as an alternative to traditional antibiotics in weaning pig diets.
Issn1011-2367 (Print) 1976-5517 (Electronic)
JournaltitleAsian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences